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France Dinner

Bailliage of Ile de France, France
Paris, January 22, 2022

The best Epiphany cake
" Édouard de Soultrait officiated over proceedings for the first time as Chargé de Missions Provincial "

Members of the Bailliage Provincial of Île-de-France headed to Maison Louvard, in the 9th arrondissement in Paris, to sample the cake that was awarded fourth place in 2022 in the best Epiphany cake (“galettes des rois”) contest in the Île-de-France and the recipe for which had previously made the winning entry in 2012.

Édouard de Soultrait officiated over proceedings for the first time as Chargé de Missions Provincial for Île-de-France.

The origins of the Epiphany cake

Epiphany is a Catholic feast day that marks the night on which the Three Wise Men arrived from the East, guided by a star, bringing gifts to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Celebrated on 6 January, people exchange gifts to remember those given by Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.

However, the Epiphany cake has nothing to do with religion: its origins most likely date back to the Romans, who celebrated Saturnalia in the second half of December. It marked a period of freedom, where the power of masters over their slaves was suspended. Gifts were exchanged and food and drink enjoyed.

It was around the 13th/14th centuries in France that mentions of the Epiphany cake were first recorded. The cake is divided into as many slices as there are people present, plus one: the pauper’s slice. The tradition of the “fève”, or bean, dates back to the same period.

The Epiphany cake comes in different shapes and flavours, depending on regions and local traditions. But of all the different stories around its origins, there is one that gave the cake its name of “galette des rois” (literally the “cake of kings”). In the 14th century, the tradition of “le roi boit” (“the king drinks”) developed. Whoever received the slice with the bean in it had to buy a round of drinks for everyone. The story goes that misers would swallow the bean so they wouldn’t have to pay for drinks, leading to small porcelain objects taking the place of the bean as they were harder to swallow.

Geneviève Groslière
Chancelier Provincial, Bailliage Provincial of Nouvelle-Aquitaine

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